Irish Minstrelsy/Volume 2/Part 3/Cliona of the Rock
CLIONA OF THE ROCK.1
BY HENRY GRATTAN CURRAN.
The night clouds gathered o'er me; anguish preyed
Upon my sinking spirit—forth I strayed,
'Till by a lonely fort I came—and there
Stood darkly brooding o'er my soul's despair;
When lo! revealed before my dazzled eyes,
Girt with the gushing radiance of the skies,
A nymph appeared;—exuberant and bright,
In sable lustre, o'er her brow of light
Fell the dark tresses, whose descending flow
Mantled the maiden's steps with tremulous glow.
She touched the harp—and, oh! the answering sound
That floated from the throbbing chord around!
Oh never yet could earthly feeling win
From harp such voice to pour its fervor in,
As trembled to that touch:—the song had ceased.
And scarce the etherial beam those fingers graced.
While o'er the snowy page she poured along
The silent burthen of that wondrous song.
It was a glorious record—in those lays
Burned the bright memory of other days;
Meanwhile, with glowing lip, and voice that rolled
Symphonious to their theme, the maiden told.
In language of the Gael, the sage's lore—
The virtue—the emprise—in days of yore
That Banba nurtured3—and across the brine
She traced the prows of the Milesian line.
The berry's glow, the swan's unsullied plume,
Her cheek of softness blended to illume—
Her forehead—oh! t'was smooth as infancy
Exhibits, ere the soul forget the sky.
Its bright eternal home; ere mortal care
Hath left its shadow or its impress there.—
And, o'er its soft expanse, so brightly meek.
Her sable brow was arched with slenderest streak.
Her eyes with light, with lambent glory fraught.
Flashed deep into my soul— the maiden wrought
On satin garments, next, the mingling chase;
Wolves—hunters—hounds, were there in headlong race;
There too, the broidery portrayed the brave
Who gathered laurels o'er the bounding wave.
With faltering tongue, I said, celestial fair!
Vouchsafe a gracious answer to my prayer.
From some high region—thy resplendent home,
To mortal converse, since thou deign'st to come;
Say, art thou she, for whom the compassed towers
Of Ilium toppled o'er her failing powers?
Or Deirdre, lovely nymph, for whom the glave
Was purpled in the bosoms of the brave?
Or Ceirnit, sage inventress, she who taught
Our land the lesson she from Alba brought;
And bade the crystal current of the stream
Heave into life the mill's mechanic frame?4
In accents calm and sweet as ever filled
Man's ear and heart, from honied lips distilled,
The maiden answered,—doubtless true the fame
Which you recount to grace each storied name;
But mine is Cliona—the beetling side
Of the tall rock my home;5 to pour the tide
Of coming things before you I am here—
Bright be the revel, let no envious tear
Dash the deep current of the mantling bowl,
In tones of rapture pour the joyous soul:
Exulting fiercely, Martin's followers6 rave,
Your Charles, they say, lies mould'ring in the grave;
But heed them not, for in the forts of hills
A prouder theme the pealing anthem fills;
When bards with loftiest strains indignant vie,
Proclaiming that false broods mendacity.
Truth beams upon the crest of Cashell's son;
Hosts gird him round; our own, our righteous one;
Banba's warm heart with him no despot shares,
The slumbering blade, lo! tardy justice bares;
Down with the spoiler! till no English tread
May pause in anguish o'er the countless dead.
From every shrine redeemed, in choral swell
God's chosen priests his mighty works shall tell;
Our pastors, meek, and continent, and true—
And they shall register the deeds you do
To be a beacon light to other days—
Then crown the goblet—and exulting raise
The festive measure—let no abject sense
Depress your spirits; heaven is your defence;
Even now the impress of the eternal seal
Is on your freedom's fiat—fare thee well.